Category Archives: Aging

Be a Better Parent without Forgeting about Yourself

mompic

This is a post for parents. For mothers and fathers whose lives have done an entire 180 and have landed *splat* face down on the sidewalk since they have had children. After five years of parenting, I consider myself entirely too enlightened about one key factor: the you, the “you” you knew before your kids were left in a bundle on your doorstep, will become a scarce, mythical beast, read only about in fairy tales, lest you corner that old “you”, wrastle it to the ground and trap it in a place you can access on a daily basis.

What am I on about? Parents know. Its the days of wearing old t-shirts because your breasts are leaking constantly. Its cutting your hair because you are tired of having it yanked out a strand at a time. Its crushed crackers in a diaper bag, while all the cute bags slowly fade out of style in your closet. Its Friday nights asleep on the couch while a well intentioned DVD plays in the background. Its the groundhog days filled with time outs, thrown applesauce, nails down the chalk board screams, flushed toys and poopy diaper wrestling. It’s considering your annual trip to your OBGYN “a day out”. It’s never having a private moment in the bathroom. Ever.

Please. To all my brothers and sisters in the trenches of parenthood. Take a look around. When was the last time you went on a date with your partner? When was the last time you wore something “dry clean only”? When was the last time you left the house without diapers, snacks, sippy cups, and an outift change? When was the last time you slept somewhere away from your children and then – gasp – allowed yourself to sleep in past 7am?

It is so very important to remember what makes you happy. Yes, yes. Your happy child makes you happy. So does 8pm when they are (God willing) in bed finally. But what makes YOU tick? Before kids. Did you like to read? (And I don’t mean board books.) Did you have a hobby? Did you see friends often? Did you exercise? Did you have actual leisure time?

Did you?

Do you have any of that stuff now? No??? Go find it. Quick. Hire a sitter, even if it costs money. Figure out a girls night out. Have a friend take the kids for an afternoon. Check the guilt at the door and do something for YOURSELF.

Because if you don’t, you will truly lose yourself and your mind. You will forget who you are. You will actually forget what you truly LIKE to do. All of the sudden, ALL that you know about yourself is being… well… a parent. Take away the kids, and suddenly there is nothing left. Your identity is simply… a mom. Or a dad.

And it can happen so quickly. You’re there and then *POOF*, suddenly, you’re gone.

No disrespect of course. Being a parent is an incredible and, yes, noble job. It is an honorable identity to assume, and every parent should claim that title with pride. As my aunt always reminds me, parenting it the hardest job there is. Yeah, you bet your animal crackers it is. And THAT’S exactly why its so easy to loose yourself. There is so much to do while parenting that when you forget about the “you” stuff, the “kid” stuff seeps in and fills in all the cracks. There is always a sippy cup to fill, a puzzle to make, and a nose – or bum – to wipe. Just let someone else do it once in awhile, that’s all. It will still be there when you get back. No one will take the title of “mom” or “dad” away from you. Just be your first name, the name you had before “mom” or “dad”, once and awhile.

Have you still not shaken your parental guilt to consider more time for yourself? Don’t forget that when you are happier, you are a happier – and therefore better – parent. And then theres the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing. When you take some time away, you do miss your kids. And upon your return, you and your partner will actually fight for the chance to change a poopy diaper. Seriously, it happens.

And I know the tough times of parenting are fleeting. I am betting my wiser readers who have been parents longer than I have are pleading to me “Oh but enjoy these tough days. Enjoy your child before he grows up. They will be gone in an instant!”

Sadly, I know that. And I fear that. Everyday I bring my 5 year old home from school and I hold him tight tight tight because I can literally feel his mind and body growing in my arms. But that is also my point. They DO grow up so damn fast. And then in an instant, they are off to college. Where does that leave you? If your child went to college today (forget that he or she is a 2 year old toddler) – who would you be right now? How would you identify yourself? What kind of fun would you have with your spouse? Do you know? You need to know. Think about it.

Now please do not assume I actually have this figured out. (Snort.) Honestly? I am writing this post while deeply in the trenches of an extraordinarily all consuming phase of parenting. My husband is just about to begin his season and that will require him to work six days a week, working as late as 10pm. But in the midst of this time, while I raise these wonderful but tough kids of mine and my husband works so that I can take care of these wonderful but tough kids of ours, I am trying to keep track of myself. For instance, I write when I have any time, from my home, with the kids here next to me. While multi-tasking this mommy stuff, I am hoping to piece together some clue so I can be a better (potentially paid) writer “when I grow up”. And I have started running. Insane, right? But I’m into it (I’ll even go before my husband leaves for work) and now dream of finding some way to have my kids watched so I can run a 5K.

Granted, I keep reminding myself to keep my expectations reasonable. Diaper changing, referreeing the rules of sharing and helping with homework is just what I do for now. But dreaming, and clinging stubbornly onto what truly makes me tick, does allow me to be more than just “Mom” – but “Caroline” too.

The picture posted above is of me with my boys. It was taken about a year and a half ago and might be titled “Me as Mommy”. It is one of my favorites as I am caught in a very typical, absolutely wonderful, however all consuming parenting moment.

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Filed under Aging, Boys, Children, Deep thoughts, Family, Fathers, Growing up, Guilt and motherhood, Identity crisis, Marriage, Mothers, Parenting, Reality check

My Baby Belly Battle

strongest-man

I loathe my baby belly.

And all the mother’s out there who have given birth to their children know exactly what I mean. It’s that tire of flabbed out muscle and mushy fat left over from carrying watermelon sized babies around in your abdomen. And even after you’ve breastfed both children (hoping they suck off the extra pounds), even after you patiently wait out the old mantra “9 months in, 9 months out”, even after everything else seems to have gone back to where it was… (eh… pretty much… good enough at least… if you squint with one eye… after your contacts are out) – that baby belly stays right with me like some trusty sidekick. It just won’t quit. It’s as if your abdomen is thinking “Hey, hanging out here in the wind really ain’t so bad after all. If it works for Homer Simpson, it works for me.” And you are left avoiding the empire waisted shirts or anything remotely maternity-ish for fear that if you wander too close to a Babies R Us, you’ll hear a squealed “ooooh, when are you due???” I’m not exaggerating either. It’s happened to me.

So I really loathe my baby belly. And I swear to you. I am not getting all vain here either. Honestly. I am not all into losing weight or getting some hard, Linda Hamilton type of bod. No way, being stacked like that just doesn’t get me that fired up. My body is my body, take it or leave it. All I reeeeally want to do is wear jeans WITHOUT the muffin top – do you catch what I’m saying?

So back to that damned baby belly. I want it gone. And how do I do that? Hold on to your hats folks, its a totally crazy concept for me. Here it comes… Exercise.

BOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Hiiiisssssssss…. virtual rotten tomatoes are being lobbed at such a concept.

But, heres the thing. Or irony of it all. I have a college coach for a husband. And he majored in – of all things – P.E. (For real, he did. Side bar I know, but he actually took college classes in badminton and ballroom dancing and teaching kids how to play kickball. And he ALSO took a lot of nutrition and physiology classes. Hence my perfect resource.) It’s crazy really. I had to marry a guy who is so damn physically gifted – athletics, sports, and physical fitness come as naturally as breathing for him. So, yeah, he certainly knows what it takes to get my flabby midsection back in the saddle again. I have an expert living right along next to me.

But can I also mention WHY I love my husband dearly? Because he NEVER, and I mean NEVER, has suggested I work on my belly by the way. He could care less if I do. He loves me as is. But when I ask questions, he is happy to provide information. Score for me.

So. Finally. I asked that husband of mine what I need to do to get my baby belly to bugger off. And he said two things. Aerobic exercise and toning my ab muscles.

(And then there is a third. Eat better. Whatever. Pass the Halloween candy.)

Huh. Now lets back the truck up a bit here. I hate exercise. (Hence those lobbed tomatoes.) I was the dorky, awkwardly tall, uncoordinated kid in bad glasses who dreaded P.E. I have not one ounce of competitiveness in me. And so when a soccer ball hit me square in the face at age 6 and my glasses went flying – I cashed it in. I mean, ow. That hurt. I could care less which net the ball got into. Exercise, sports, getting all sweaty = NOT. FOR. ME.

Well, at the ripe age of 35 and after having two large boys, exercise is no longer optional. If I don’t want to look like a potato with toothpicks sticking out of it, I better get off my ass. (Note: yeah, yeah, I am sure I am exaggerating. While I may not look exactly like said potato, I feel like said potato – and THAT, my friends, is JUST as bad in my book.)

And let’s not forget that studies have proven that exercise lowers a woman’s risk of breast cancer – which my mother has had. And weight bearing exercise will build my bones now and help me avoid osteoporosis – which my mother has. It’s time to get out the door and get it done.

So after all this whining about my baby belly, what have I started doing about it? How do I get to work on kicking its ass when I have a coach husband who never works regular hours like 9 to 5 and is often gone weekends? When I don’t have the extra cash to join the Y (with the baby sitting included)? When I don’t have any fancy stair master in some personal gym in the basement? How do I commit to cardio and toning? This is what I do.

1) Do I have a half hour? Yup. All I ask myself is to spend a half hour of my day doing something that raises my heart rate above “yawn, stretch, thump, wassup, oh yeah right, thump“.

2) If I am by myself, I get out the door and walk. Fast. With music. Walk, walk, walk.

3) If I am by myself, can I dare myself to run, just a little bit? Yup. It sucks, but I get done faster.

4) If I have the kids, can I drag or push them in any way? I don’t have a jogging stroller but pushing a heavy sit-n-stand or pulling 75 pounds of children in wagon has gotta give me some kind of work out.

5) Can’t leave the house? Out comes my jump rope in front of the TV

6) Ab time? Groan. I ask myself to do 80 sit ups, 20 jack knifes and some minimal core work. That’s it.

So its not much, right? But its more than what I was doing. A LOT more. And the funny part is that its actually becoming addicting. I can’t wait to get out and do it – even if it SUCKS while I’m doing it. But I will do whatever I can to get out there.

This is all so UN-me, I am telling you. Like today, me, dragging that wagon full of my kids. Even trying to run while pulling it. I swear I must have looked like I was in The Worlds Strongest Man (Or World’s Lamest Mom) competition. You know, when they are pulling a car behind them? That was me and that wagon trying to run but really barely getting anywhere. It kicked my ass, I am telling you. And probably offered my neighbors some comedy in their day.

But I’m doing it. I’m trying.

Do I see any difference? Nope, not yet. No idea if I’m losing weight because I don’t care about that (I don’t even own a scale, I think they’re evil). I still have my tried and true muffin top rockin out of my jean top. But I remind myself that it can’t happen over night. (Not with that lovely, delish bowl of Halloween candy sitting right here besides me as I type this. Oh no.)

But I’m doing it. I’m trying.

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Filed under Aging, Breast cancer, Children, Educating myself, Exercise, Health, Identity crisis, Mothers, Panicking, Self-analysis

Turning 35 and Getting Over It.

A few days ago, I turned 35 and for some reason it seems to be a bit of a milestone.  35. 5 years from 30, 5 years from 40. When I turned 30, I hardly noticed. I was deep in the trenches of tending to a newborn.  A “milk making, diaper changing, ever baby holding, never sleeping” machine. I hardly noticed it was summer, let alone that I had turned 30. It seems that since I have had children, my aging, my progress forward, my evolution in any way has kind of come to a screeching halt. And that’s been ok actually. I have been able to pretend I am still 29, the age I was when T. was born. I have almost let myself believe that everything is just at a stand-still, waiting for me to come back into the game when the coast is clear and the baby gates are down.

But here we have it – I have turned 35, and I am not so sure the game is exactly waiting around. Age is happening to me, whether I like it or not. Weight has redistributed itself – things around the back have seemed to have sucked through my body and deposited themselves on the front. Except for the top portion of my front, which actually WAS sucked away -thanks to my two boys- and I’m left with gaping, “been there done that”, A cups. I’ve got some white hairs, sun damage has become more apparent, I’ve got a bunion for cripes sakes, and I can’t focus up close when I read quite as well as I used to.

The other true indication that my life is really not stopped in place waiting for my return is the fact that my children are growing up. Nothing demonstrates the passing of time more clearly than children growing before your very eyes. 5 years have gone by since I have become a mother and turned 30, and my growing children (just add water, the Chia Child that grows…. Cha-cha-cha-cha- chia!!!) have made sure I don’t live in denial about that fact.

So yup, as so many do, I have grumped my way into 35, responding with a groan when someone wishes me well. Clearly, I am feeling sorry for myself. But, ugh though. This self pity crap is really annoying, and you know I am not the only one who does it. Why can’t we accept this inevitable aging process and the milestones that come with it?  

So to change it up, and slap some sense into myself, I think this might be a good time to take stock. I think to make myself feel better and actually celebrate this mark of 35 years, I need to list all that is good about this age.  So read along as I try really reeeeeally hard to make myself feel better and remark on what a fabulous half full glass 35 actually is.

·         I can finally just relax into my own body. It is what it is. The genes are laid down, the babies have been born and left it as so. I should be good to it, appreciate it, throw pride to the wind and wear that bikini after all, accepting that what I got is what I got.

·         By now, I have to know something. I have to have enough life experience that I can safely feel some confidence about having a clue about how the world goes ‘round. And if someone asks for it, my advice could maybe possibly hold some water.

·         Being carded at 35 is a compliment. It really is. That 18 year old kid asking for my I.D. truly makes my day. 35 probably doesn’t look as old as I think it does.

·         In my twenties, I was in a frenzy of getting engaged, planning a wedding, being married, and then trying and succeeding at having babies before my child-bearing years were over. And now, (throw some confetti in the air) I’ve done it! I got that covered. Now it’s time to figure out the next steps without that crazy pressure over my head.

·         Years ago, before children, I hated to be alone. It seemed pointless and lonely and too quiet. Now, I cherish some time alone. To remember the old me, think my own thoughts, make my own choices. Granted, I still don’t want to fly solo for too too long, mind you, but the time alone I do get, I savor and cherish.

·         At 35, all radio stations are my musical oyster. The soft rock station plays songs I actually know (honestly, it’s not THAT bad). The oldies station plays my favorite tunes from high school. I still know top 40. I still jam out to R&B (I don’t care how ridiculous this white suburbia mom probably looks). Classic rock rocks, even if it doesn’t seem THAT classic. And when I am running up to the store without the kids, I’ll even blast the alternative rock station and swear I still do “get it”.

·         White hairs on blond women can be written off as “highlights”. At least I’D like to think so.

·         I don’t care what “What Not to Wear” says, at 35, I still feel like I can buy fun t-shirts in the Jr. Section and get away with it.

·         Laugh lines just mean you’ve been happy. And when you smile, well those laugh lines just make you look happier.

·         As I raise two children, at least I know that one day, I have left this world with something really really good. That alone kind of negates any said bitching and moaning about my age.

·         35 is ONLY 35.

Now for those of you smug folks who are 5, 10, 20 years my senior and are currently rolling their eyes at my pathetic little mid-life crisis (which I am constructively trying to reconcile with a harmless little blog post, mind you), just remember you were 35 too once. We all go through milestones and experience them in our own particular self-indulgent way.

Ok then. Now that I have accepted that I am the ripe, wise and proud age of 35, maybe I can stand my ground and really show how I have gotten a clue in future years. Each year forward, I want to try very hard not to dwell (“try” being the key word) on the “getting old” bit. Really, enough already, it’s just annoying. I need to get over it and keep taking stock and celebrating those achievements – big or small. And more to the point, I need to get fired up about what I still have yet to tackle, discover, celebrate and enjoy. My boys are growing up and a bit more independent – let’s get on with it, there is so much to do!

And finally, my dearest friend also reminded me that the day we are born isn’t meant for bemoaning our white hairs and droopy body parts. Remember, we were born this day. We have come into the world, done some cool stuff, made our world better in whatever large or small way and people have loved us for it. Our friends want to cheer us on and we should accept that love, light some birthday candles and get on with the party. So, happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. May I get plastered you baaa…d girl, happy birthday to me. Cheers!

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Filed under Aging, Birthdays, Growing up, Identity crisis, Self-analysis